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Why Dance?

The Importance of Dance in Your Child’s Life

 

People sometimes ask me why I dance. My answer is simply, ”Why not?” My main motive is joy. The happiness that dance has provided me is not really something I can explain – it has to be felt. The benefits and opportunities dance has afforded me and many others, can do the same for you and your child. Even if your child does not end up being a professional dancer, there are several benefits to beginning dance instruction at a young age:

  1. Dance classes promote fitness for a lifetime! I cannot tell you how easy it is for dancers to transition their skills from dance class to so many other fitness arenas. Dance also provides the necessary daily physical fitness recommendations of most health care professionals. Promoting physical fitness as being fun and easy from a young age, creates an excellent foundation for future life long health and fitness.
  2. Confidence, high self-esteem and personal expression. Dance is a great way to connect emotionally with an audience and other people. Throughout the PA classes, expression, smiling and reflection will be promoted. This creates a health environment in which students can express their feelings in a productive manner, while learning to control their emotions.
  3. Discipline and Focus. Students will experiences challenges in their dance classes, just as people experience challenges in their life. From retaining choreography to setting and achieving goals, dancers will feel success at such a young age. They will also learn that it takes hard work and sweat to achieve their goals and dreams. Their work ethic in the dance studio spills over to their schooling and other activities.
  4. Lifelong friendships and bonding. Most of the friends I’ve made in my life have come through my dance training. Each started with a bond formed in the studio and continued growing. As a result of working on team, partner and solo performances, we develop comfort in working independently, a taste of healthy competition and inspiration from our peers.
  5. Flexibility of the body and mind. By the age of 11, most people are the most flexible they will ever be, so it is important to starting stretching at a young age. Students will not only gain and expand their physical flexibility, but also mentally as they learn to control their energy and bodies in their full range of motion.
  6. Creativity and imagination. Dancers will work on creating shapes and movements through imagination and exploration. This is beneficial to all aspects of life, creating endless opportunities for future development.
  7. Posture and poise: You can always tell who the dancer is in the room by their posture and ability to move with grace. Technique taught in class focuses on maintaining a straight back , lift from the core , a lengthening of the shoulders down the back, and both slouching and hyperextending.
  8. JOY! The number one rule in dance class is to have fun. As in life, if you can’t find happiness in what you do it’s hard to build compassion and persistence. Dancers will feel the freedom of expression, meet new friends and reap the rewards of dance training!

 

Are you ready to be a rockstar dance mom? Don’t worry, we’ve got your back. Here are a few quick things a newbie dance mom can do to pretend like you’re a pro already.

Get your terms down.

Leotard: That’s what goes on your dancer’s body – like a swimsuit. And just like a swimsuit, dancers don’t actually wear undies under their leotards – but we don’t want to scare you off, so the undergarments lesson can wait for another day!

Tights: These go on your dancer’s legs –  underneath the leotard.

Bun: That’s what goes in your dancer’s hair, not just on their hamburger patty.

Slack: What every dance mom should give themselves when your dancer refuses to have any of the above on their body and comes to class in their pjs instead.

Label Everything.

Your dancer’s ballet slipper will run away from home – and join the one missing sock from every pair that they own. The problem is, it looks like every other tiny adorable ballet slipper from the dozens of other dancers. Please put their name inside their shoe (not on the outside or the bottom of the shoe) so we can help it get back home safely! While you’re at it, label their water bottle, jacket, and anything else you can slap a sharpie in to!

Let them see your eyes, not your iPhone!

We know you want to capture moments of your little one dancing – and we want that too. Take lots of photos before and after class. But during dance class, if your child is dancing for you, put the phone down and look them in the eyes. Clap, cheer and smile. Dance is a performance art and meant to be appreciated by a live audience, not just for filming. Live in the moment with your little one.

Praise the Process.

Remember to give your new dancer lots of love and encouragement. Being a dancer is hard work and takes a lot of bravery to try new things. The best thing you can tell your dancer is “I love watching you dance.” Leave the “point your toes” corrections to the professionals!

Reality is not real life.

In real life, dance moms are supportive, kind, loving, and treat their dance friends like family.  If you’ve seen any other “reality” then you’ve been misinformed. If you need a bobby pin or a Starbucks run, we’ve got your back! Some of my very best friends were found on the dance floor – we hope you feel the same.

Welcome to your new official Dance Mom Status. We’re glad you’re here!

Children – The earlier you get them started, the better!

Children love to dance long before they are able to stand by themselves. You probably must have noticed their head bobs, smiling with hands in the air, and with full body wiggles…

The beautiful part is that there is so much to dancing than the moves and steps that we all know and see. It has, in fact, been found that dance education aids in the development of Kinesthetic intelligence in children. Amazingly, dancing also offers an excellent set of benefits for the young ones in a very engaging and fun filled way.

When children are given the opportunity to dance regularly, they become more active in a very creative way. The activity also helps them to grow healthier while enhancing their muscular tone. This is further supported by studies that reveal how children that are brought up with an active lifestyle from an early age, often maintain the desire to remain active as they grow into adulthood.

Children are naturally inquisitive and have a great sense of curiosity. These tendencies come in handy during their dance classes. It is particularly fascinating how that they are quick in their mastery of sequences of unique body movements that they are taught. What’s most fascinating is how most of these children want to explore movements suited to them, evolve, and become more creative with the body control and dance steps.

Over the years, the dance lessons taught at Pink Academy of Arts continues to have an amazing impact on the students – helping them learn the art of communication in an ideal and comfortable social environment. This is so because group dynamics help to stimulate a great sense of harmony and strong bond among dancers. We call this the fun way to meet, socialise and make friends.

But that’s not all! Our dance lessons indeed have tons of benefits – socially, emotionally and otherwise. We have had countless instances of children who were initially shy (which is normal for children) at the beginning but gradually became more confident and social, with time. This can be said to be a perfect example of how dance is an excellent emotional confidence booster for a lot of children.

Other amazing benefits of children dancing include the active development of a sense of ingenuity, which in turn, inspires them to give expression to their creative imaginations.

Unlike anything else, the dance lessons that are taught at Pink Academy of Arts lasts a lifetime!

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Don’t Make Your Kids Quit Dancing To Study

Quitting all fun stuff doesn’t encourage discipline. If anything, I’d argue we need to show our children how their dance or exercise can help with their exam revision. It can help manage stress and refocus their brain.

Today the common practice of well-meaning parents are encouraging their kids to stop dancing or extra-curricular sports because of GCSEs or A-levels.

Whilst I understand the reasoning, it’s something I’m grateful my parents didn’t do this. Yes I scaled things back but there was no question of stopping. I needed the active and creative release.

I can remember using my dance classes as a reward for getting a few good hours of studying.

The British Heart Foundation released statistics, which revealed 20 million Brits are risking early death due to inactivity. And with only 1 in 10 girls aged 14 currently meeting the government recommendations for exercise, surely the last thing we need to do, as parents, is to make them stop and study.

What messages are we putting out about sports and activity if we classify them as optional extras, to be dropped as soon as we need to focus on the serious stuff of examinations?

Surely at times of stress we should be helping them manage stress and boost brain function. Activity and creative pursuits do just this.

Does quitting actually help kids to pass exams or improve their grades? At an age when teenagers’ brains are wired to seek and get high on pleasure, surely forcing children to give up on the fun and creative stuff is a recipe for a deeply miserable time.

I’m not an education expert. I can’t comment on exam technique or revision, other than from my own experiences as a straight A student, who continued to dance between the ages of 14 and 21.

I see new mums whose bodies would be coping so much better with the strains of pregnancy and birth if they had only moved more and been stronger during the pre baby years. I see middle aged women struggling with the stresses and anxieties of juggling ‘all the stuff’ who lack a creative or physical outlet to help manage it. I see women post menopause and retirement who are seeing the early signs of reduced bone density and hips that won’t move because they have forgotten how.

There is such a focus on exams, academic attainment, tests and achieving that we’ve somehow forgotten the importance of life. Is it any wonder that we can’t squeeze in an hour for a run or have to manage on super speedy workouts because we don’t have the time for the thing that makes us happy and healthy? Because we’ve learned that sport is a nice, optional extra.

I’m not just talking ideal world stuff here. I’m talking longevity and remaining fit enough to be active throughout our non work years.  I’m talking scientifically proven FACTS that sitting down for long periods of time is worse for us than smoking!

Sitting down has also been linked with breast cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Sport and activity need to be AS important as exams. An exercise habit could keep you alive for your grandchildren. An A-level won’t.

Movement and impact on joints (along with nutrition) as a child, set up good bone density for life. Sitting down for long periods of time is like taking a top of the range sports car and leaving it in a damp garage for years with no servicing.

Activity can help manage stress and anxiety. We know that exercising outside, in green spaces, actually changes the brain. It stops us brooding and improves our mood.

Quitting all fun stuff doesn’t encourage discipline. If anything, I’d argue we need to show our children how their dance or exercise can help with their exam revision. It can help manage stress and refocus their brain.

In fact some studies have shown that some exercise can actually help with laying down information in the brain and subsequent recall. Don’t hang up your leotard. Aside from potentially saving your sanity and your life it could also boost your grades!

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Turnout

Turnout is one of the defining characteristics of classical ballet and the foundation of your technique, but the deceptively simple concept of external rotation can be hard to execute. For those born with hip joints that don’t naturally make a tight fifth position, it’s tempting to take shortcuts in the quest for more rotation, but you’ll end up with weaker technique and a higher risk of injury. We asked top teachers and physical therapists to break down the meaning of turnout and offer safe ways to maximize your range.

Why Is It Important to Classical Ballet?

“Turnout really is an expression of what classical art is,” says Xiomara Reyes, head of The Washington School of Ballet. “It’s a physical representation of giving, opening, outreaching to the audience. And even if you don’t have 180-degree turnout, you need to focus on it: All movements are from the inside out, not just the legs but the whole body.” Otherwise, she says, you’ll lose the clarity of your positions.

Where Does It Come from Anatomically?

Turnout, or external rotation, is most visible in the placement of the feet (toes back and heels moving forwards), but it’s initiated from the top of the leg and involves the hip, thigh, knee, ankle and foot. Studies of professional dancers show that the majority of outward rotation comes from the hip joint itself, says Emily Sandow, program manager of physical therapy at the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries at NYU Langone Health. Although the bone structure you’re born with is not modifiable, with time and training, soft tissue such as muscle can adapt, biasing the hip rotation outward.

The best chance for that comes before a dancer’s peak growth spurt—around 12 to 13 for women and up to age 16 for men. This is when bones and ligaments are most pliable, says Lisa Apple, doctor of physical therapy at Revitalize Movement Physical Therapy in Snoqualmie, Washington, and a former dancer. When that window of opportunity for increasing your range of motion closes, that doesn’t mean you should quit working on your turnout. “When people ask, ‘Can I get more?’ ” says Apple, “I say yes—as you get to puberty and start to develop more strength, it’s a matter of learning to hold your maximum turnout, maintaining a neutral pelvis and feeling the rotators of the hip.”

Finding Your Functional Turnout

We think of “perfect” turnout as 180-degree outward rotation of the legs and feet, but that much flexibility is only valuable if it’s functional—meaning you can keep your legs rotated while moving. Dancers often mistakenly grip or clench the most obvious hip muscle, the gluteus maximus (which works to lift your leg into arabesque), but the muscles important for turnout are actually buried underneath it and may be hard to feel at first. These deep rotators attach to the head of the femur and different points of the pelvis. When they’re activated, you’ll feel a wrapping or pulling together at the top of the back of the leg as you rotate. The adductor muscles will also engage to bring the inner thighs forward as the backs of your legs come together.

Former New York City Ballet principal Stephanie Saland uses imagery to help her students find and engage their deep hip rotators. “I call it spiraling,” she says. “Stand in parallel with imaginary jars under your palms. Unscrew a jar to the right, and unscrew a jar to left, and then do the same with the thighs. The feeling of rotating with downward ground-reaction force gets the muscles to recruit in a way that’s useful and consistent.”

Rotation discs can also help dancers learn to activate their hip rotators without relying on friction from the floor. “When you turn out in plié on the discs and then straighten up, if the musculature isn’t there to sustain rotation, it becomes very apparent,” Saland says.

Avoid Turnout Cheats

Dancers are canny at finding cheats for “fake” or nonfunctional turnout, Apple says. A common but faulty strategy is the “bottom-up” approach: cranking the feet out 180 degrees, planting them to the floor with friction and bent legs, and then trying to straighten the knees. (If you have a “white-knuckle” grip on the barre to keep yourself steady, it’s a red flag you’re doing this.) The result is rolled-in arches, which puts excessive stress on the ankle tendons and intrinsic muscles of the feet. This can lead to tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, knee strain or shin splints.

It may be tempting to tuck your hips under or go into swayback to hold your rotation with straight legs. “But without a neutral pelvis,” says Sandow, “you can’t carry your turnout from barre to center. Think of your tailbone dropping down and your pelvis as a balanced bowl of water.” As you dance, you don’t want to spill the water.

Although mastering turnout is complex, learning to use it properly is worth it. “There is such beauty in being able to hold that openness with fluidity, while breathing through your muscles,” says Reyes. “It’s like a rose blooming from the inside out.”

​The Ultimate Goal: Mobility Plus Stability

When it comes to maintaining your turnout, flexibility may be less helpful than you think. Dancers with naturally loose hips may have greater difficulty because they need as much (or even more!) muscular training and coordination to stabilize their turnout than those with more limited facility. “Core strength is very important, because that allows you to use the right muscles to access your turnout without gripping your glutes,” says Xiomara Reyes, head of The Washington School of Ballet. “You need body awareness to create the right feeling of turnout without tension.”

Regardless of your flexibility, physical therapist Lisa Apple says, you should always stretch within the limits of your body, being careful not to damage the ligaments. “Muscles repair and get stronger, but once you overstretch ligaments, you’ll always have structural instability.”